I wrote a couple weeks ago that if I had to vote (I did not say at gunpoint but “required by law” to vote) in the Richmond mayoral election, I’d vote for Jack Berry – mainly because he has the support of Jim Ukrop.
And a good political friend said to me something to the effect that I was dead wrong. But what about Ukrop? It’s not what you think it is.
But after reading this report from the Times-Dispatch on the televised mayoral debate I think the brief bromance is over. Consider this first:
“Well, Mr. Berry said he listens to the city. However, when he was working at Venture Richmond and was being the captain of the cheerleading team for the Shockoe Bottom baseball stadium when the mayor even stopped cheerleading for the project,” [former Secretary of the Commonwealth Levar] Stoney said. “He even volunteered to write emails on behalf of black ministers in this city.”
Berry defended his approach to the project, saying he only worked on the project until Mayor Dwight C. Jones gave up on it.
He said his offer to draft quotes that could be attributed to prominent black Richmonders is a standard practice when preparing press releases.
“That’s very normal in the public relations field,” he said.
I was troubled by the made-up quotes, even if the intent was to reflect (which is what I am sure Berry meant) accurate feelings. I don’t recall ever doing it at this blog. But there’s more here – the “fact” that Berry supported the Shockoe Bottom stadium idea (the one that would have cost the Richmond taxpayers twice the costs due to interest on bonds, yes that one) only until Mayor Jones gave it up. But Berry got disproven:
City Council member Jonathan Baliles, asking for an opportunity to follow up, continued pursuing Berry on the issue: “I’d like to point out that after the mayor withdrew the plan in May of 2014, the next month, Mr. Berry gave a speech to the Retail Merchants Association saying he believed completely in the plan.”
OOPS! So, who’s right? I decided to do some research as the Cubs are losing Game 3. Check out this quote from R T-D in June 2014 at this very meeting Baliles referred to:
The redevelopment plan for a minor league baseball stadium in Richmond’s Shockoe Bottom isn’t dead yet, the head of a key group backing the proposal told area business leaders Friday morning.
Berry pitched the plan as a way to revitalize two areas of the city — Shockoe Bottom and the Boulevard area, where the Squirrels now play at The Diamond — and a way to preserve the city’s slave trade heritage in the Bottom.
“I just don’t believe that we’re going to walk away from that,” he said.
Double OOPS! Maybe Berry forgot about that meeting. But there’s more:
In addition to being challenged by his opponents on his support for the stadium project, Berry also faced questions from the moderators: What was his reaction to news late Monday that Virginia Commonwealth University and the Squirrels are pursing an agreement to jointly construct a $55 million new stadium not far from the current ballpark on the Boulevard?
“Hallelujah,” Berry said.
Well that did it. Jack Berry is not my candidate for mayor. We’ve had enough bike races, boondoggle stadiums, publicly assisted breweries and Redskins deals. It’s like spending money on a credit card for cruises and the like when you can’t pay your bills. Not until the schools are better in the city among other things can people even consider something like this. In fact Berry said something about the schools and downtown at that speech to the Retail Merchants that I hope is a misprint:
Asked about revitalizing downtown while people routinely move out of the city as their children age into the school system, Berry said that downtown will have to focus on those too young or too old to be concerned about the school system, at least for now.
“Folks are going to move to where the great schools are,” Berry said. “They’re not downtown.”
That kind of social engineering is startling. And disturbing.
This morning when I heard snippets of the debate on the morning news, I heard Joe Morrissey say that the downtown streets got taken care of for the bike race but not the roads in the southside. The news actually showed a pot hole as Morrissey said it. Ought to have had a disclaimer: Paid For by Joe Morrissey for Mayor. It was effective. And No I did not give Fightin’ Joe the idea!
But I found Berry’s view on the bike race:
As Jack Berry, president and CEO of Richmond Region Tourism, said in this paper’s pages when Travel + Leisure named Richmond No. 3 on its international list of the 50 best places to travel in 2016, “The race provided great exposure for us. We never looked better.”
Triple OOPS! The bromance is definitely over. I am glad I do not have to choose the next mayor of Richmond. So dear readers, who should I endorse for Mayor? Maybe nobody…NOTA has a deep libertarian tradition. Maybe we need that city manager model again for the River City.